Game 64 - Mets
Mets 5, Diamondbacks 3 (13 inn.)
Gary Cohen and Ron Darling repeatedly described the events of last night's ninth inning as a "punch in the gut." Boys, I know that the FCC dictates that you keep it above-board on such depictions, but let's be honest. I think my oft-used "punt in the groin" is within the confines and a more accurate assessment, don't you? I mean, in truth, it was more like a tire iron to the testicles, but I've got just enough decorum to avoid unveiling such an expression. At least I thought I did.
I settled in for some Metball early on last night, not wanting to miss any good parts in case, like the night prior, they were few and far between. What I was treated to was a stellar pitching performance by Mike Pelfrey, the best of his young career. Of all the candidates to be a stopper with a 4-game losing streak sending us down that unpleasant path again, he was perhaps the least likely -- at least when matched up against Brandon Webb. The D-backs are a fastball-hitting team, and Pelfrey beat them at their own game, mixing speeds nicely but giving them a healthy dose of heaters they couldn't work with. And it was great to watch.
Scratching a few runs across off Webb was an equally pleasant surprise. The Metmen knocked him out early, then went silent against the Zona pen. No matter, Pelf kept the shutout intact through eight impressive innings. No matter. No . . .
Well, now, fellas, were you so confident in that robust 3-run lead that you needed to run yourself entirely out of the 8th inning? Not one but two would-be base-stealers were gunned at second in the 8th, leaving David Wright stranded in the batter's box. Honestly, we might have wanted to see what Wright could do with a couple of runners. Reyes, whose (as of yesterday) 25-year-old legs have looked a little tired in this 96-degree heat, has been caught stealing more than Perry Farrell of late. No matter. Willie lets Pelfrey bat for himself in the 8th; he's giving the kid a chance. I like it.
Well, after Pelfrey allowed a leadoff single, Willie consulted his internal conventional wisdom rulebook.
Young pitcher takes shutout game into 9th inning. If 1st batter reaches, yank him.
Like clockwork, Willie Randolph strode to the mound after that. I'd have bet all the money on my pocket on it (roughly $11, in the interest of full disclosure). And following conventional wisdom is often prudent, but robotic, knee-jerk managing only gets you so far. Pelfrey's pitch count was still manageable, he'd thrown a masterful 8th, and . . . well, you always have faith in Billy Wagner, but on any given night, you never know what a reliever's got. You knew what Pelfrey had. Have confidence in your Pelf, they used to say.
Anyway, hindsight's 20/20 but I was saying all this to my television in the moment. And after a double and a couple of outs, with Mark Reynolds, the third most prominent SEVA 3B star in the bigs at the plate (behind Dee-Dub and Ryan Zimmerman), the pessimism began to well up inside me. After Reynolds was hit in the toe with the 2-2 pitch and not awarded first base, Gary said, "Well, the Mets caught a break there." I replied to him (for some reason, I'm pretty sure they can hear me in the booth), "Oh, just you wait . . ."
It was if I'd already seen the play happened. Home run to left. It was some kind of déjà vu, some sort of extrasensory perception network, some form of childish, negative, "I knew it, I told you so" pessimism extraordinaire come to bear. I sent a message to Rob with a flurry of expletives the FCC would deem wholly inappropriate but at least somewhat original.
The bullpen, or BP for short, has been serving up half-baked taters like the Wendy's on Lee Highway in Arlington, VA. In each of the last four games, a Met reliever has surrendered a homer late in the game to tie or lose the game. That's not . . . uh, that's not good.
And so I had to decide whether to cash in my chips or stick it out for extra innings. The good people from Anheuser-Busch helped influence my decision, and it all worked out fine. The bullpen actually held fast, and in the bottom of the 13th, Carlos Beltran ended it with a two-run blast. It was worthy of a quick (for me) leap from the couch and gooberish fist-pump, but it's not worth much more discussion. Shouldn't have had to happen, and the exciting conclusion to the much-needed W only slightly outweighed the frustration, disappointment, and bitterness we experienced from more ineptitude by this squad.
Game time's 1:00 today. I know you're all taking off work like the Met PR people told you to.